Spicy Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to my letter S post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I’ll be discussing spicy essential oils like cinnamon, cardamom, etc. I really love these oils. In fact, I especially wanted to buy cardamom essential oil. Too bad it’s relatively expensive, but I eventually got it.

First off, let me discuss cinnamon. Cinnamon essential oil is steam distilled from either the bark or the leaves of the cinnamon plant. Cinnamon bark essential oil is usually preferred, but it is also much more expensive than cinnamon leaf oil. Cinnamon bark oil’s aroma is much richer than that of ground cinnamon. It can be described as peppery, earthy, spicy, bright yet slightly woodsy. The oil blends well with many different essential oils, including citrus and mint oils, as well as other spicy essential oils. Cinnamon essential oil should be used with extreme caution when you want to apply it to the skin.

Another plant in the cinnamon family of which essential oil is distilled, is cassia. This oil is very similar to true cinnamon but more affordable. I don’t own this oil as far as I know, though now that I think of it, my “cinnamon” essential oil might actually be cassia.

Another of my favorite spicy essential oils, is cardamom. This oil is steam distilled from the seeds of the Elettaria cardamomum plant. The scent is spicy, woodsy, rich and sweet.

Lastly, I want to discuss clove essential oil. When an oil is simply referred to as “clove”, it is most likely steam distilled from the flower buds of the clove plant. However, clove leaf and stem essential oil are also available.

Clove bud essential oil is very strong, so always be cautious when using it. For example, the maximum usage rate in skincare products is 0.5% (about one drop in 200ml of carrier oil). Even when diffusing clove bud essential oil, use it sparingly in blends.

Clove bud essential oil has a strong, warm and spicy aroma. It is well-known for its pain-relieving properties. Some people will use a drop of clove essential oil on a painful tooth. However, I don’t recommend using any essential oil internally. Rather, use an actual clove bud instead.

Do you like spicy scents?

Rosemary Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to the letter R post in my #AtoZChallenge series on aromatherapy. Today, I will talk about one of the first essential oils I purchased: rosemary.

The name “rosemary” is derived from the latin term for “dew of the sea”, because it is native to the sea cliffs of the Mediterranean. The highest quality essential oil is derived through steam distillation from the flowering tops of the plant Salvia rosmarinus. This plant used to be known as Rosmarinus officinalis and you may still see this used by essential oil companies.

Rosemary belongs to a larger family of herbs that includes lavender, mint, myrtle and sage.

The scent of rosemary is fresh, herbaceous and sweet. AromaWeb reports that it smells “slightly medicinal” and I agree.

Rosemary was considered sacred by people in many ancient cultures. It was used in incense, for protection and as a reminder of the life-and-death cycle. It may also have been used to improve memory, which isn’t so far off. After all, at a 2017 conference on aromatherapy, rosemary was actually reported to help with cognitive function.

In the Middle Ages, rosemary was thought to ward off evil spirits and keep the bubonic plague from spreading. For this reason, rosemary branches were commonly spread across floors and doorways to keep the disease from spreading. In addition, rosemary was often tossed in graves to symbolize the fact that loved ones who had died, wouldn’t be forgotten.

Sixteenth-century German-Swiss physician and botanist Paracelsus recommended rosemary as a herbal treatment for all kinds of conditions.

Currently, rosemary essential oil is used in aromatherapy to relieve stress and nervous tension, to boost mental activity and to support clarity and insight. It is used to improve alertness, reduce negative moods and improve the retention of information by increasing concentration. It can also be used to combat fatigue and to promote a healthy respiratory system.

When applied topically to the skin, rosemary essential oil can reduce pain, soothe inflammation and boost the immune system. It can also be used to promote hair growth and help your hair look and feel healthy. You can also use rosemary essential oil in a massage to promote healthy digestion and relieve bloating, flatulence and constipation.

Rosemary essential oil blends well with other herbal essential oils such as lavender, clary sage, peppermint and spearmint. It can also be used in blends with citrus essential oils.

Have you ever used rosemary? If so, do you like it?

Quality of Essential Oils: Does It Matter? #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter Q post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I will be talking about quality of essential oils. Does it really matter whether you buy a cheap drugstore brand of essential oil or an expensive brand? Do you need to get all-natural, organic essential oils or are synthetic or non-organically grown plant essences just as good?

The answer, in general, depends on what you want to do with your oils. I mean, if all you want is a nice smell, does it really matter whether your oil is natural or not? I don’t think so, unless you intend on blending your oils. In that case, after all, you’ll really need to know a lot about perfumery. For example, I have tried blending coconut and vanilla fragrance oils and that didn’t turn out as well as I’d hoped for, despite the fact that the scents seemed to go well together.

If you want to use your oils for their actual therapeutic properties, though, I do recommend you get all-natural oils. Even then, it matters where the oil came from geographically, how the conditions under which it was grown were, what extraction method was used, etc. For example, cold pressing is generally the best extraction method, but this isn’t possible with most oils. Steam distillation is, therefore, second best.

Many lower-quality essential oils have been adulterated in one or more of several ways. For example, thyme essential oil’s constituents may vary from 100% thymol to 90% carvacrol, with some varieties containing citrol or geraniol. Secondly, rose essential oil, for example, is often diluted with geranium.

An essential oil’s constituents can be analyzed using gas chromatography and mass spectometry. These are not methods the average consumer would be able to employ themself, so they must rely on the supplier to have done this analysis. I for one, so far never got these analysis reports. I’m not even 100% sure the vendors I normally buy from, offer them. I, indeed, had to look to a supplier I wasn’t before familiar with to see a random oil’s report to see what it looks like. Guess I’m learning something now that I do this challenge myself.

Patchouli Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Hello and welcome to my letter P post in the #AtoZChallenge. The theme I chose for this challenge is aromatherapy and today, I’ll be talking about patchouli essential oil.

The name of patchouli appears to have come from the Hindi word “pacholi”, which means “to scent”. The plant belongs to a family of other aromatic plants, such as lavender, mint and sage. Its grounding, balancing aroma makes it an ideal essential oil to be used in aromatherapy and cosmetics alike.

Even though you might think of patchouli as “the scent of the sixties” if you’ve lived that long, the history of the plant’s use dates back much earlier. It is believed that Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun was buried with patchouli essential oil.

Early European traders would trade it for gold too. Patchouli was also used by Asian traders to protect silk and other fabrics.

Patchouli essential oil is steam distilled from the young leaves of the Pogosteman cablin plant. The oil is quite thick and ranges in color from light yellow to a deep amber. The scent can be described as earthy, musky and slightly sweet. The scent is pretty strong and may therefore be overstimulating to some people.

The main constituent of patchouli essential oil is patchoulol. This constituent is believed to give patchouli essential oil its grounding, mood-balancing properties. Other constituents of patchouli essential oil include α-patchoulene, β-patchoulene, α-bulnesene, α-guaiene, caryophyllene, norpatchoulenol, seychellene, and pogostol.

Patchouli essential oil can be used in aromatherapy as a sedative yet also anti-depressant and aphrodisiac oil. It is a great oil to use in skincare products too, as it neutralizes body odor.

Patchouli blends well with many different oils. For example, I like to blend it with lavender and ylang ylang for a calming effect. It also blends well with citrus oils, such as orange, bergamot or grapefruit.

Do you like the smell of patchouli?

Orange and Other Citrus Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Hello and welcome to my letter O post in the #AtoZChallenge. I have been looking forward to sharing this post ever since I found out that the letter O in the #AtoZChallenge alphabet scavenger hunt is for orange. Yes, I’m writing about orange essential oil. Oh, and all the other great citrus essential oils too.

When referring to orange oil, many people mean sweet orange essential oil. Wild orange essential oil is also often used in aromatherapy. I for one don’t own that oil, so I always substitute it with sweet orange.

Unlike most other essential oils, sweet orange and most other citrus oils are not extracted using steam distillation. Rather, they are extracted by cold pressing the rinds (peel) of the fruit. There are distilled varieties of citrus essential oils, but they are much harder to come by. I, for one, have searched a lot of places to find steam distilled lime and lemon essential oils, but haven’t been able to find them here in the Netherlands.

Sweet orange oil is one of the more skin-safe oils out of the citrus group. It is most likely not phototoxic. However, most other citrus essential oils, such as lime, lemon and also bitter orange, are phototoxic.

Another citrus essential oil I love is bergamot. This aroma and flavor may be well-known to those who drink Earl Grey tea, as bergamot oil is used to flavor this type of tea. Bergamot’s scent is citrusy like orange, but somewhat more floral with bitter undertones too. Be very careful when using bergamot essential oil on the skin, as it is highly phototoxic due to it containing bergaptene. When using bergamot essential oil on the skin, be sure to choose the furocoumarin-free (FCF) variant, which has the bergaptene removed. Still, even FCF bergamot essential oil can be irritating to the skin as well as photosensitizing.

Citrus essential oils blend well with many different essential oils, including lavender, eucalyptus, etc. I also love the combination of several different citrus essential oils in a diffuser blend. For example, here’s a recipe for my keylime pie diffuser blend:

  • 2 drops sweet orange

  • 7 drops lime

  • 1 drop lemon

I also like to blend citrus essential oils with spicy essential oils such as cinnamon and clove bud. However, just about anything goes!

Nonsense?: The (Lack Of) Scientific Basis for Aromatherapy #AtoZChallenge

Hi and welcome to my letter N post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I’m really struggling to find a word that fits my theme of aromatherapy. I mean, I don’t own any essential oils starting with the letter N. I originally intended on using the word “nose” and going into some theories of smell. Then again, I’m really too lazy to dig deep into this. So instead, I decided to talk about the (lack of) scientific evidence for aromatherapy.

Indeed, there is little to no solid, scientific evidence behind the use of essential oils for physical health. One of the reasons may be that it’s hard to create truly controlled studies. After all, a proper trial would use a double blind, placebo-controlled design. This means that neither the patients nor the doctors or staff administering the oil, should know whether they get real essential oil or a placebo. However, obviously most people will be able to smell whether they are inhaling an essential oil oor a placebo.

Generally speaking, essential oils do not effect physiological signs of the body. For example, lemon and lavender oil were tested in a study on pain control. They were not found effective on any of the physical signs of pain (heartrate, pain ratings, stress hormone levels, etc.).

However, the oils did improve mood. One reason for this may be that smells are strongly connected to emotions and memories. In fact, when a smell signal is transmitted from the nose to the brain, it reaches the limbic system as well as the olfactory cortex. The limbic system, particularly the amygdala, is responsible for emotions and emotional memories. For this reason, smells can directly trigger positive (or negative) emotions.

Besides, the placebo effect can be really strong. This means that, if you expect something to work, it is likely to help at least somewhat. I’ve even heard, though not specifically in aromatherapy, that the placebo effect can alter brain chemistry. For example, people’s brains respond to fake painkillers by producing endorphins, which are the body’s own pain-relieving chemicals.

All this means that, even if there’s no scientific evidence behind aromatherapy, it can still be useful. Like, when you believe that, say, lavender essential oil will help you fall asleep, it actually will. If for no other reason, it will aid in your bedtime routine, and a set routine is always helpful.

Mint Essential Oils #AtoZChallenge

Hello and welcome to my letter M post in the #AtoZChallenge. My theme for the challenge is aromatherapy and today, I’ll be talking about minty essential oils. The most well-known oils in this category are peppermint and spearmint. I don’t own spearmint, though I want to someday. I do own peppermint essential oil and also field mint (also known as corn mint), which is very similar.

Peppermint essential oil is far stronger than most other essential oils. Though it is generally safe to use peppermint essential oil in massage and skincare products, you should very much dilute it into a carrier oil. I, for one, prefer to use at most 0.2% peppermint essential oil. This means two drops of essential oil in a 100ml bottle of carrier oil. Don’t use peppermint essential oil in a bath or in whole-body massages. Field mint is somewhat safer to use.

Besides concentrated peppermint essential oil, there also are peppermint extracts, which are less concentrated. You can also buy enteric-coated capsules, which contain a tiny amount of peppermint oil in a special coating.

Peppermint can be used to lessen the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The menthol in peppermint supposedly helps block calcium from moving across the intestinal membrane, thereby lessening symptoms of intestinal spasming, which are the main cause of IBS-related discomfort and pain.

Peppermint essential oil, when inhaled, may also be able to reduce indigestion and nausea. However, it may actually contribute to reflux, so do consult your doctor when you experience persistent heartburn or acid reflux.

Minty essential oils, along with eucalyptus essential oil, are well-known for their refreshing properties and can be used to relieve cold symptoms.

Spearmint essential oil, unlike peppermint, is safe to use on children. It is also more skin-safe than peppermint. It doesn’t have as strong an aroma, but still is refreshing. It can be used to stimulate the senses and clear the mind.

Spearmint essential oil blends well with many different oils, including citrus oils such as bergamot and orange, lavender, ylang ylang, etc. It has a unique combination of uplifting and stress-reducing properties.

Peppermint oil blends well with oils like lemon and eucalyptus. It is more stimulating and energizing than spearmint.

Do you like the smell of peppermint? If you’ve tried spearmint, do you like it?

Lavender and Lavandin #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to the letter L post in my #AtoZChallenge series on aromatherapy. Today, I’ll share about one of my favorite and most commonly used essential oils: lavender. I will also discuss its cousin, lavandin.

True lavender essential oil is distilled from the flower spikes of the plant Lavandula angustifolia. It has a sweet, floral yet slightly herbal scent. Lavandin comes from a hybrid between true lavender and Lavandula latifolia. Lavandin’s scent is more herbaceous and camphoraceous than lavender, but it still retains some of lavender’s floral scent. I like to describe it as “lavender light”. Lavandin was originally introduced to the cosmetic industry in the 1970s because of it being more affordable than lavender. For this reason, some essential oil profiteers adulterate true lavender essential oil with the less expensive lavandin.

Lavender essential oil is very well-known for promoting relaxation and sleep. There are no controlled clinical trials of lavender essential oil in people with anxiety, but some less well-designed studies show that lavender may definitely help lessen anxiety as well as improving one’s mood. A study I found reported that internal use of lavender might work as well as lorazepam in treating anxiety. However, please note that I do not recommend using essential oils internally. Besides, this study was done over a time of six weeks, which is enough time for people taking lorazepam to have developed tolerance.

Lavender, when consumed as a tea (not the essential oil, but the herb itself!), is reported to help with digestive issues such as nausea, intestinal gas, an upset stomach and abdominal swelling.

Lavender and lavandin essential oils blend well with many other oils, including clary sage, citrus oils such as bergamot and orange, ylang ylang and patchouli. I like a blend of eight drops of lavender oil and two drops of geranium essential oil to promote sleep.

Do you like the scent of lavender?

Keeping Your Essential Oils Safe #AtoZChallenge

Hi everyone and welcome to my letter K post in the #AtoZChallenge. I focus my challenge posts on aromatherapy. Today, I want to talk about how to keep your essential oils safe.

First, essential oils, unlike carrier oils, don’t go rancid. This, however, doesn’t mean that they last indefinitely.

After all, essential oils may change composition under the influence of air, temperature and (sun)light. By this I mean that some components of the essential oil will start to evaporate and the concentration of others might increase. One study even found that, after exposure to ultraviolet light (such as rays of sunlight), an essential oil may start to contain components that weren’t in the oil before. In other words, it is no longer the same oil.

It is therefore recommended that you keep your essential oils away from direct light. I have a container with space for each bottel of essential oil and I keep the lid closed when not using it. Also do keep your essential oils away from sources of heat, such as the radiator. It may even be recommended to keep your essential oils in the fridge during the hot months. Lastly, screw the lid tightly onto your essential oil bottles when not in use, because oxygen in air can damage your oils too.

How long will essential oils last? It depends on the oil. For example, citrus essential oils are the most volatile and can be used about two to three years after opening. Other oils, such as clary sage, are much more stable.

The only surefire way of knowing whether your oil is still of good quality, is to retest it. Since this isn’t really possible for consumers, I recommend replacing your essential oils every several years. Don’t pour essential oils down the drain or throw them in the garbage. Rather, get them to the chemical waste depot.

Juniper Berry Essential Oil #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my letter J post in the #AtoZChallenge. Today, I will talk about juniper berry and its essential oil.

Juniper berry (juniperus communis) is probably most well-known for being the tree that gin is made out of. Gin is made out of the dark blue, waxy seed cones or “berries”. The essential oil I’ll discuss here is also derived from the berries through steam distillation. There are also CO2 extracts from juniper berry, as well as essential oils derived from other juniperus shrubs, such as cade essential oil. I don’t own these though.

Juniper berry can be used to help with restlessness, especially when blended with other oils that have sedative properties, such as clary sage or lavender.

Juniper berry essential oil can also be used in massage oils to reduce aches and pains. In fact, juniper berry needles and berries used to be used in natural medicine infusions to deal with joint and muscle pain.

In addition, juniper berry can be used in helping relieve gout attacks. After all, it is a circulatory stimulant and can help rid the body of excess uric acid. It also helps rid the body of excess fluids.

Juniper berry blends well with many different oils, including geranium, grapefruit, eucalyptus, lavender, etc. I prefer to blend it with another strong smelling essential oil, because I personally don’t really like the gin-like smell of juniper berry.

Juniper berry is not safe during pregnancy. It should also not be used by diabetics or those with kidney disease.